"Tell us what you said to him," Abdnor says.
In fact, what Bradley did in this speech is instructive, for it reflects exactly the way he approaches the challenges in his life. Although Bradley's intelligence is considerable, it was always his diligence and thoroughness that set him apart.
So now, you are Senator Bradley, a recognized wooden speaker, and you are about to address a crowd come to pay tribute to your rival of sorts, a man who is acclaimed as your oratorical opposite. What do you do? Well, what Bradley did was get a copy of Cuomo's most famous speech, the keynote he delivered to the Democratic convention last summer, and he went over it with a fine-tooth comb, finding—as there is in every partisan political exhortation—the corny, the hackneyed lines. These Bradley extracted, and, straight-faced, read them back to the assembled.
For example, Cuomo had brought down the house in San Francisco with these two sentiments: "Peace is better than war because life is better than death!" Bradley intoned them, at his most solemn, and the crowd began to titter. "Magic," Bradley said. The crowd began to laugh. "Awesome! The logic! The leadership!" By now the crowd was in the aisles. "How can a wooden speaker, such as I, even presume to share the same dais with a man who can deliver such insights?"
The two Republican senators roared at the recounting, and then all three left the subway to vote.
Senator Barry Goldwater was presiding in the Senate. "Clear the well," he was saying. Senator Helms, a man near as tall as Bradley, was working the floor, trying to buttonhole a few undecideds. He didn't even bother to approach Bradley. "Please clear the well," Goldwater pleaded. The senators drop in, alone, in pairs, kibitzing, voting; they have 15 minutes. All the fence-sitters must have gone against Helms, and the bill is defeated 58-40.
"It really can get very physical down on the Senate floor," Bradley says. "I mean, other senators will literally grab your lapels. They'll hold you and won't let you go. But I love my job. I love what being a senator allows me to do. And I like the Senate as an institution. I'm sure that because I was already well known before I got here, that that profited me. I didn't feel obliged to rush to the press gallery with a release every time some new issue came up. Sports taught me that you must earn your spurs, not act until you've proven yourself.
"Now, comparing politics to sports can be overdone, but it is true that you're dealing with different people from different backgrounds with different agendas, and you're trying to agree, to get them to work on a common goal. The fourth month I was in the Senate, there was an important vote one night, and it was late, and we were in the Democratic cloakroom, and I looked around, and the responses to the moment were fascinating. Some of the senators were angry, some were joking, some were pacing, some were smoking. I couldn't help but think, This isn't a whole lot different than the Knick locker room."
Indeed, no athlete ever used athletics so well as Bradley. "Absolutely," he says. "I was able to get paid for playing basketball while exploring career paths. It was a distinct luxury. As a professional athlete you can travel all over and never see anything but airport, bus, hotel, arena. I always made sure to see something else."
Or, from another point of view, as Congressman Jack Kemp, another former professional jock, introduced the senior senator from the great state of New Jersey not long ago: "The former depreciable asset of the New York Knicks."